As the former Chief Content Officer at Hearst Magazines and editor-in-chief of both Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, Joanna Coles spent years hearing from 20-something single women on the ups and downs of dating in the digital world. After being inspired by Food Rules (a straight-forward guide to eating wisely), Joanna set out to write the rule book for relationships, titled Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World.
Joanna, now a creative adviser at CBS This Morning and executive producer of Freeform’s The Bold Type, sat down with VINAZINE to talk about her book, the importance of forging IRL connections, why people are feeling more lonely, toxic friendships and more. Read some highlights and check out the full video from our exclusive interview below.
How junk food can be compared to “junk love”: “I think junk food is very seductive, right? So actually when you’re hungry, there’s nothing more delicious than the smell of McDonalds or the tantalizing prospect of a little cone of nuggets, but in the end, it’s not a very healthy diet. And it’s OK to do every now and then, but if you try to sustain yourself on a permanent diet of that, you’ll actually make yourself very ill. And it just struck me that there were a lot of similarities between food and love because we can’t live without them, we need good quality of food and love to really have a good life. And it’s really important to your health—not only your mental health, but your physical health as well. Eating well and finding someone to love you well and love them back well can be challenging.’
On the #1 dating mistake people make: “There’s not a #1 mistake that people make, but I do think that people often fall back on exes as a sort of comfort, thinking that it will get them through a moment of loneliness or solitude, and I think that, like the donut at 4 o’clock, that you have an energy crash. You need a quick fixer-upper and you reach for something and a half an hour later, you’re like, ‘Ugh why did I do that?’ You feel awful, you’re still hungry, and now you’re full of remorse.”
On overcoming these mistakes: “One of the things I really urge people to do is to keep a diary, so that you can monitor your own behavior and understand when you have your own weak moments. If you know 4:00 is your energy low, then at the beginning of the day, you want to eat with that in mind … Understanding your behavior and then setting up a system so that you’re not left on a Saturday night, lonely and drunk, and reaching to make the text.”
On loneliness: “I think that people are feeling more lonely for a variety of reasons. One is that our devices was supposed to connect us…and often they do, there are apps that are brilliant and we’re never going to live without them, but it’s not a zero-sum game because it’s so much easier now to hedge your bets and delay making commitments to what you’re going to do that evening, so you can often be left high and dry. It’s often easier to plan in advance, so that you know you got something set up, and I think it’s very easy when you’re facing a moment of solitude or an evening in that was unplanned, to go down the rabbit hole of social media and see that everybody else is apparently having a much better time than you are, and it’s really important not to do that, to just be disciplined, put it down, and say, ‘Actually this is not going to make me feel better to follow everybody else on Saturday night. I may not have anything to do with other people, but I’m going to read a book, I’m going to cook a meal, I’m going to start tapestry-ing, whatever you want to do, I’m going to go to the gym, I’m going to sign up for a choir, I’m going to write an old-fashioned letter to somebody.’ It’s important to spend time off your device.”
On having toxic friendships and what to do about it: “Just as it’s possible to have junk love, it’s also possible to have junk friendships, or friends that bring you down that you’re not quite able to cut the chord on. I think keeping a journal is really good. Track your energy, be your own data analytics expert. Figure out who are the people who give me great energy, who are the people that I feel down about or conflicted after I’ve seen them. And once you see that pattern, start reducing the amount of time that you spend with the people who are toxic and actually bringing you down.”
On what defines a good friendship and virtual friends vs. IRL friends: “We are at the beginning of understanding our behavior with these devices. It’s not zero sum, we’re never going to put them down, they’re amazing devices and all the things that they can do for us, but they often come at the expense of participating in real life. And I do think there’s a difference between virtual life and real life. I think there’s a difference between a friend who sits with you when you’re feeling sick or listens to you droning on about your boyfriend problems, and a friend who you’ve never actually met in real life, and simply likes your tweets. Nothing can be more important than sharing experiences with friends, new friends, old friends, because that’s actually what builds friendship. It’s funny experiences, it’s spending the night, like I did one weekend with a group of friends on Governors Island glamping—it was hilarious … you want connective tissue that happens in real life. It’s the funny things that actually builds friendship over the years, and that’s the stuff of value. You know that’s when you can call someone and say, ‘Listen, I’m gonna have chemo, do you mind coming with me?’ Friendship should be built over the years with an amount of trust. People knowing that they can trust you to show up when you don’t feel like it, and you can trust them to show up when they have more important things to do. That’s what friendship is—it’s not liking someone’s tweets or following them. Friendship is about being able to trust someone, being able to rely on someone and about knowing that you will step up for them when they’ll step up for you, and who you want to hang out with when you have milestones … Who are the first five people you call when you get a new job, lost a job, lost a parent, when you’re super excited about something, who are the people in that world that you can rely on.”
How to expand your social networks via dating apps: ‘Dating apps are incredibly useful for expanding not only your love life, but your entire social network. Think about how people react after college…they stay with the people they went to college with, they’re all in the same town together, but it can be very lonely moving to a new town when you’re working at a company and you don’t see that many opportunities for socializing at work, and it’s much better to have a life outside of work anyway, and I think dating apps, they can all have this extra circle of connection, which can become really exciting. You might not like the person on the date, but you might have someone you want to introduce them to, they might have someone they want to introduce you to, so it’s really just a small pebble passed into the pond that can have great ripple effect.”
How to maximize your profile: “So many people are really general—I have a great sense of humor, I love to hike, I love music. That’s not enough. You want to be really precise and do a deep dive. I love Coldplay…I love hiking in the Adrinocks… show your personality. Be really detailed so that you are getting a sense of who are you and your real authentic passion. Don’t say you like sailing if you’ve never been in a boat .. you want to be authentic, because that way you’ll tap into people who share your interests, which means you’ll immediately have something to talk about. It’s more fun being honest—otherwise, you have to try to remember the nonsense you claimed.”
On plans for her next book: “I’ve been asked repeatedly about office relationships and how people should behave in offices now, and I think post-MeToo and post TimesUp, there’s a lot of anxiety about office behavior. Clearly, not just in terms of how people relate on a relationship basis, and whether or not they can start dating, but just in terms of office manners and how people should behave towards each other. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to be tackling office behaviors next.”
Thanks, Joanna for talking to VINAZINE!
Vinas, make sure to pick up your copy of Love Rules. Trust us—it’d make the perfect book for your next book club wine night📚🍷! And want to start making memories with amazing friends like the ones Joanna is talking about? They’re all waiting for you on Hey! VINA today! Start swiping today.👉